Technology and Football Equipment

Unless you are a die-hard fan of football and follow all the latest information regarding how technology is changing football equipment and how it is played than some of the information out there is going to be pretty surprising to you.

It should not be a surprise that the $530 million dollar football equipment industry is turning to technology to create better, safer equipment. Getting a slice of the football equipment pie is well worth taking the time to do the research and development using technology.

The Helmets

Football is rough on the body but no body part suffers quite as much damage as the head in football. Players experience multiple concussions throughout their careers that cost them dearly in the end.

There are indications that multiple concussions can cause brain damage. Unfortunately some of the damage may lie dormant and not be immediately noticeable so the players continue to play.

Recent reports indicate that football players are at a much higher risk of brain disease. The research and studies are even making the players nervous and causing some to take action.

In March of 2015 an up and coming player from the San Francisco 49’ers announced that he was leaving the sport because of his fear of developing debilitating brain disease after reviewing the research and seeing what has happened to teammates.

Using technology to develop helmets can help to design helmets that will protect players more effectively from brain injuries. There are a few fans and players that think MORE investigation in to producing safer equipment is needed now.

In some cases the technology does not result in a “new” helmet design but it results in producing other protective gear that can be used in conjunction with the helmet. Like this:

The Second Skull – this is a skull cap that is worn under the helmet. Studies have shown that by adding this additional layer of protection you can reduce risk of injuries by 35%. It can be worn under any helmet, it is made of wicking material so it moves sweat away from the head for comfort and it absorbs shock.

2nd Skull Protective Skull Cap

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Other Areas Where Technology is Playing a Role in Football

Helmets are not the only way technology is playing a role in the design of football equipment. Every team in the NFL, every college team and most high school varsity teams use radio headsets to communicate between player and coach.

This is a time saving device. It used to be that players would have to be replaced to provide the quarter back with new game plans but now that the quarterback and the coach can communicate it cuts out the need to switch out players.

Beginning in 2012 officials in the NFL were also permitted to use wireless headsets to communicate with each other.

Player’s helmets are fitted with headsets to communicate with the coach. The headsets are similar to this one:

Sena Helmet Clamp Kit With Boom Microphone

Sena SMH-A0301 Helmet Clamp Kit with Boom Microphone for SMH10 Bluetooth Headset

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Tablets on the sidelines have become a common occurrence in the NFL. Coaches use to rely on faxes that were delivered to them throughout the game with a birds eye look at the playing field.

Starting in 2014 tablets were distributed by the league to every coach in the league so that they could receive real time color images of the playing field during the game.

These tablets are collected after every game and held by the league until the next game. The tablets are only allowed to be used for coaching purposes only but they have made a big difference in play planning.

The NFL uses the Surface Pro.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

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The NFL also announced recently that:

“In Thursday night contests and other select games in 2014 the NFL is experimenting with quarter-sized radio-frequency identification transmitters in the shoulder pads of each player, using a system developed by Zebra Technologies. Receivers installed throughout the stadium will use those transmitters to collect data on each player’s position, speed and distance, in real time, during the game.

While the technology could be a boon for broadcasters, the NFL envisions its potential extending to team training, scouting and evaluation. Its universal application will hinge on how well the system works initially, agreements with the players union on how it can be used, and discussions with players and coaches about whether or how it could benefit them for training and instruction.”

The information that these transmitters gather can be very useful in designing future safety equipment for players.

The Things We Don’t See

There are a lot of things going on with football that as fans we do not see. A lot of technology testing is happening that we are not aware of.

Like a microchipped football that would put an end to the 1st down chain length test that is often contested because of human error.

Other things are happening behind the scenes to make the experience more enjoyable for fans like better cameras, better broadcasting technologies and things that are making the field feel more interactive.

Those sideline tablets that are used for game planning and viewing are also being used by team doctors to view an injury as it happened to get a better idea if a head injury is involved. They can also be used to access the player’s electronic medical records.

Coaches and side line docs are using X2 Biosystems app to asses for concussions. New wireless sensors in the uniforms and helmets of players will help to collect data that is necessary to improve the safety of all the equipment.

The sensors can also help to put an end to disagreements over calls.

The face of football is quietly changing. Most people are not kept abreast of all the new technologies that are cropping up. In some cases when you find out that it is only been a few years since coaches are able to see the plays in living color in real time it is sort of shocking.

The NFL likes to keep their technology choices on the down low until they make it an official part of the rules.

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